Over the past several years I have been foraging and practicing herbalism, and as my own practice has deepened and become more intuitively awakened, I have learned that intellectual knowledge can be deeply supplemented by a direct intuitive connection. I’d like to give some perspective on how we can engage in what I like to call “The Yoga of the Natural World”. This is a practice that can unite our internal spiritual growth, with the external call to action of preservation and ecology movements for the wellbeing of the Earth mother.
If we explore the natural world with our intuition in harmony with the intellectual understanding we have learned, we can begin to notice the threads and bridges occurring between inner and outer; micro and macro. It is a revelation for an herbalist to realize that cells react and respond to chemicals no matter the species. Whether within the body of a human, or within the body of a tree, mushroom, or plant, cellular responses are the same. On a microscopic level, all species speak the same language; which is that of the cell.
We can also look to the trees for a grounded example of this connection. The sap of a tree is dripping from a wound upon its bark, covering its own wound. That tree is just as invested as your arm is in keeping out infection. Essentially, what blood is to the human is sap to the tree. It is commonly known that pine sap is good to place on wounds, and has antiviral and antibacterial properties. In this way, we can see that it shares an underlying and universal process or action that goes beyond intellectual systems. Training ourselves to make these perceptual connections can enable an enhancement of our capacity to perceive that can point toward the root of all written herbal knowledge; instinctual observation, or indigenous perception.
We can observe Nature; human and ecological, by learning to pay “intuitive attention” to the subtle cues we see, if we devote awareness to it. For example, it is one thing to hear a sound, or touch a thing, but very different to fully pay attention to what we are experiencing and to be able to recall it a few moments, or a few days later; which is actually a very good practice. This is especially important because in the modern society we live in, we are energetically invested in ignoring and de-sensitizing all of the input that comes into the senses; shielding the input sensors so that we don’t go into overload. Yet, in the natural world this is an animals only survival; an animal without this capacity has a different name; that name is dinner. Those are the signs of weakness or gaps in awareness; this is the exact moment when the predator strikes. The hungry predator has been waiting for this breech in attentiveness.
This is perhaps one of the most grounded and systematic practices of mysticism, and at first appears as not mystical, but very plain and practical. But, as we practice, information starts to flood the mind from a place that feels and seems unknown which challenges us to redefine our perceptual point of familiarity. The practice of mysticism can, and should be be very grounded in science; and in fact, it must be grounded in science if we can apply it to our modern world. We have the rational mind for good reason yet, have been thoroughly trained in the arts of the brain, but very little in the perceptual capacity of the heart. These must come together as one, and we mustn’t think that spirituality is about throwing the ability to think for yourself out. Science as an authority unfortunately has become 1 part dogma, and 1 part a very effective methodology of perception. The blessing we get from the current cult of science is the scientific method. This is the practice to make a hypothesis, test it with direct experience, and extract relevant information from that experiment. The missing side is that our hypothesis can come from our intuition, and as we refine and develop the physical and energetic sensations we feel in our bodies, a la our “gut feelings”, we can start to “know without knowing how we know”, and then test that sense.
Turning on this sense; this awareness, is what it means to truly be human; a return to the wild. We are
able to engage our intuitive capacity to grow in the way it was meant to. Our senses were built out of nature observation, out of necessity. The practices of foraging, herbalism, tracking, bird language, and nature connection actually provide a means of practicing intuition, awareness, and perception with a way to back check the intuitive hits we get. The Natural world is incredibly honest, and unlike humans, it does not fabricate answers for its own agenda. For example, the mushroom is either edible, or not, and has always been as such. If we can marry the intellectual capacity we have with our intuition then we have the ability to check the intuitive perception that we pick up; for example we will look in the field guide and verify that track, that plant, that bird, and not let the intuition go off on tangents; we were either wrong or right.
Photography by Dina Divine (Turetsky)